So, you need to figure out how to get from place to place on your trip in the most efficient and cost effective way possible? Yes, welcome to the joy of travel planning!
You might have a trip in mind that covers a general region, or perhaps you know exactly where you want to go. Either way, remember these tips when choosing your locations and figuring out how to make your way to each place.
Different parts of the world cost different amounts of money. (See how much your destimations cost with our average daily travel costs.) One day in Europe could cost you the same amount as two weeks in India. The amount of money you have can be a major factor in the amount of time you can spend on the road. However, money can also equate to comfort. Spending more will usually get you better hotels and food. You'll need to think about your priorities and compare your willingness to "rough it" with your desire to travel for a longer period of time. (We'll discuss trip budgeting in detail later on in this guide.)
One often overlooked factor when choosing your destination is your timeframe for travel. An important rule of thumb is, after deciding the number of places you plan to visit, cut it down by a third. If you over schedule you'll spend the majority of your time in planes, trains, and automobiles, and we all know how that goes. If you want at least three days in a location (and this is often the minimum you'll want) add another day on each end for transportation. It's easier to add some locations while you travel rather than cutting them while you're on the road.
Can you even visit that country? If so, how long are you allowed to stay? Do you need a visa? If so, what does that involve, and how much does it cost? Some countries are very easy, you just show up and they let you in. Other countries are much more difficult. For example, to get a Visa to Russia, you have to have a "sponsor" which is usually a travel agent in Russia. Your ability to obtain a Visa will also depend on your home country. Your government's website (such as the U.S. State Department website) will usually have information on how to obtain Visas for various countries. (We'll discuss Visa issues in more detail later.)
Weather can have a huge impact on travel. Transportation can slow or completely shut down during certain seasons. Think about where you want to go and what you want to do while you're there. An obvious example is the Himalayas, where trekking is almost impossible during long portions of the year. There are less obvious examples of seasonal considerations as well. Rainy seasons can ruin your beach trip, or migrating animals could limit your safari sightings. Think long and hard about when you want to be somewhere and don't be afraid to change up your itinerary to make it happen. Another common budget saving tip is to travel during the shoulder season (between peak and low seasons). You'll save money while also enjoying most of the benefits of "peak season" in that location.
While geography is important in choosing a route, if you're planning to fly, the frequency and cost of connections is more important. Heavily trafficked routes are often cheaper and more convenient even if the distance is longer. For example, flying from West Africa to East Africa is cheapest passing through Europe, despite the inefficiency of the route. Look at flight connections more than distance when choosing your route. This will save you plenty of money and frustration while you're on the road.
While flights are important, limiting the number of tickets you buy can be a big money saver. To reduce the number of connections, make sure your route is logical. You wouldn't want to fly from Japan to Europe and then back to Thailand, obviously. Hit one region at a time, pick out the key cities and locations in each country, and make a general route on the map. Stop off at the places along the way. Plan long segments of your trip as overland journeys (trust us, you'll have more fun that way).
If you are traveling over land, remember to seriously research the border crossings between countries. This is one area that you can not possibly research too much. Be aware of possible restrictions or closings. Also look into Visa Requirements before you head out. While some countries are easy to travel through, others have many strictly enforced limitations. Know this ahead of time.
Transportation often takes longer than expected everywhere (remember your last delay at an airport or train station?), but in less developed countries these delays can increase dramatically. The distance between locations may not reflect the time of travel at all. Dirt roads, broken busses, and delayed trains can dramatically lengthen a journey. Allow for this. Do your research and understand that you might need days off to recover from difficult transport days. Build these considerations into your schedule.
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